Over the past 12 months, seven sailors have died, four of them likely suicides. Four of the deaths occurred in 2021, and the last three happened within one week this April.
“The 7 deaths are for the following reasons: 2 health-related death, 1 undetermined, 1 confirmed suicide, and 3 apparent suicides that remain under investigation,” a Naval Air Force Atlantic official told ABC News in a statement.
The deaths prompted the Navy to open a probe into the command climate and culture on board the Nimitz-class carrier which still continues to go through a years-long refueling and overhaul process at the shipyard in Newport News in Virginia.
The decision to allow the sailors to move to other accommodations was made by the commanding officer of the carrier, Capt. Brent Gaut, according to a statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic.
On the first day of the move, which kicked off on Monday, over 200 sailors left the carrier and moved to a nearby Navy facility.
“The move plan will continue until all Sailors who wish to move off-ship have done so,” the statement said.
The ship currently has around 2,700 sailors working aboard during the overhaul process with nearly 420 sailors living on board the ship during its overhaul.
Admiral John Meier, the commander of US Naval Air Force Atlantic, told reporters Tuesday that results from the investigation are expected this week.
“We’ve assigned an investigating officer to look into that and to really to look into the proximate cause. Was there an immediate trigger? Was there a linkage between those events? I expect that to report out this week, and I won’t presuppose the outcome of that report,” Meier said.
Following the deaths aboard the carrier, Rep. Elaine Luria, a 20-year Navy veteran whose district encompasses multiple military facilities, demanded immediate action to ensure the safety of the crew.
“Each of these deaths is a tragedy, and the number of incidents within a single command, which includes as many as four sailors taking their own lives, raises significant concern that requires immediate and stringent inquiry,” Luria wrote last week in a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday.
She also added that her office has received complaints about the poor working and living conditions aboard the USS George Washington and a toxic atmosphere.